During the 1980's Tampa experienced several major riots that divided an already struggling relationship between the Tampa Police Department and African-American community. Several plans were cultivated to bridge the gap between law enforcement and residents. At that time, Colonel Curtis Lane, with the support of Tampa's Mayor Sandra W. Freedman and Chief Austin McLane, led the charge to build a rapport with the community. Unification was the goal and the City did it by progressively recruiting African-American law enforcement officers and establishing its first Black History Month Celebration in 1988. This began the progress that fostered a healthy relationship we share with the community today.
Colonel Lane recruited several members of the Crime Prevention Unit (Captain Sam Jones, Lieutenant Ricky Smith, Patricia Pierce Coleman, Loujean Williams, and Tonya Hammond) to canvas the neighborhoods and invite the community to our first program, which was held in a small room at the Police Headquarters at 1710 North Tampa Street. It was an overwhelming success. The event's popularity resulted in our move to larger venues to accommodate the growing audience. An event that started out in a small room took a journey to the old courtroom, gymnasium, several churches, and community centers, eventually evolving into a community festival hosting more than 500 citizens.
The annual historical view of Tampa's Black pioneers promotes an appreciation for law enforcement and the educational value continues to benefit both the department and community. Although the Police building where it all started has since been demolished, the spirit of which we celebrate Black History lives on today.
As representatives of the Tampa Police Department, the Black History Committee's mission is to reduce crime and enhance the quality of life through a cooperative partnership with all citizens. These partnerships include the historic emphasis of promoting educational awareness of African Americans in law enforcement, the importance of diversity and achievement, and maintaining a relationship with the community as a whole.
The Tampa Police Department Black History Committee is committed to the department's mission and its original purpose to contribute to a prosperous relationship with the Tampa community.
1. Community Investment: Develop a partnership to promote diversity through fellowship, while collaborating with other organizations and social agencies to build a broader connection with the entire community.
2. Education: Provide educational awareness through the history of African Americans in law enforcement and promote the legacy of the African American pioneers in the community. Inspire young people to adopt a positive attitude and learn lessons from the pioneers' history to overcome adversity and strive to become productive and successful citizens.
3. Service: Serve the community by coordinating and supporting events throughout the year including youth mentorship, student contests and scholarships, volunteering, career fairs, festivals, other Black History and Holiday events, addressing the needs of at-risk families and social services, etc.
Members of the Black History Committee are volunteers dedicated to fulfilling the mission as established by the department and committee. Sworn and civilian employees serve on the planning team. We could not successfully produce an event without the support of our department and a host of community volunteers.